ST. LUCIE COUNTY – John Brooks fought hard to keep parts of Hutchinson Island in its natural state, free of golf courses and condos, his daughter says.
Now Dickie Brooks worries a proposal to place wind turbines on the island in public parks – one named for her father – could go against the spirit of his conservation efforts.
“My concern is that various people, my father included, have managed to purchase and preserve a very limited number of miles of Florida beach in its natural state for public use,” Dickie Brooks said. “I really am opposed to any use of those beach properties which doesn’t directly benefit the public’s enjoyment of the quintessential Florida beach experience.”
Although the Florida Power & Light Co. proposal still is in its early stages, it already has drawn concerns from some residents and one county commissioner who don’t want the project on public land. The topic is one of several up for discussion during an informal commission meeting Tuesday.
The proposal comes a year after county commissioners unanimously rejected a coal-fired power plant from FPL. If approved, the wind towers would be the first of their kind in Florida.
Two local parks – Frederick Douglass and John Brooks – could become home to the turbines, but they would not be placed on the beach. Instead, they would be located elsewhere on the property, possibly in parking lots. FPL also is looking to place turbines on its property at the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant.
FPL began considering the idea two years ago and discussed multiple sites around the state before settling on St. Lucie County, said Sharon Bennett, an FPL spokeswoman. The utility company targeted the county for two main reasons – it’s on the coast, a necessity for gaining enough wind power in Florida to run the machines, and commissioners seem supportive of alternative energy, she said.
While it can be expensive to set up the turbines, they produce clean, free fuel, Bennett said. FPL still is reviewing the technical and environmental details of the project, including the exact number and type of turbines.
Concerns raised about wind projects in other states include the effect the turbines have on birds and other wildlife, problems with noise and the possibility of a blinking effect in the windmills’ shadows as the blades move back and forth making the light flicker.
FPL contends the noise is minimal, the effect on birds will be studied before any construction would move forward and the blinking or flickering effect only tends to be a problem when the turbines are near buildings, which is not expected with this project.
County Commissioner Doug Coward said he is excited about the idea of clean energy but is against putting the turbines on public land. He said he didn’t have any objections to FPL putting the project on its own property.
“I don’t think those properties were purchased with taxpayer dollars for this type of program,” Coward said.
Commissioner Paula Lewis could not be reached for comment, but County Commissioners Charles Grande, Chris Craft and Joe Smith all said they are keeping their minds open and have not ruled out placing the structures on public land.
Grande said he has received significant negative feedback from residents on Indian River Drive, who do not want to see turbines across the water, but he has heard little from Hutchinson Island residents.
Craft said a big question is what the county might receive in exchange for allowing the project on public property.
“I think some of the really negative reaction is to statements like they were considering putting them on the beach, which was never the case,” Grande said. “I think we would need a whole lot more information both from them and have input from other areas before anything was actually seriously considered.”
?Florida Power & Light Co. wants to place up to nine wind turbines in St. Lucie County as a form of alternative energy generation.
?The turbines would be mounted on a steel tower that is roughly 14 to 16 feet in diameter and between 322 to 417 feet tall, measured from the ground to the top of a blade when fully extended. The size will depend on the size of the machine picked.
?The generator on top of the turbine tower makes electricity when the wind blows between 10 to 55 miles per hour, but shuts down with winds above that point. The turbines would likely run only 20 percent of the time.
?They would be designed to withstand hurricane force winds.
By Derek Simmonsen
22 November 2007
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